Accused of adopting "rough and oppressive" religious policies in Tibet, China on Friday refuted the criticism and underlined that there was nothing wrong in its attempts to put up the portraits of Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders in Tibetan temples.
Addressing questions on the Tibet issue, a top Chinese official refuted criticism that recurring suicides by Buddhist monks in Tibet was due to China's "rough and oppressive" religious policies in the Himalayan region.
Commenting on the attempts by the ruling Communist party cadres to install portraits of Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders in temples in Tibet, Zhao Qizheng, spokesman for the annual session of National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said there nothing to be "accused" about it.
"The portrait you mentioned is a picture which commemorates the 60th anniversary of peaceful liberation of Tibet. In this picture the four leaders, (Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao) that you mentioned are portrayed", he said.
"Therefore I do not think it is anything to be accused of. Rather the steps taken by TAR officials was welcomed by the local communities", Zhao said at a nationally televised press conference on the eve of the annual session of the CPPCC, which is a advisory body comprising of over 2,000 nominated members.
The CPPCC formally begins its meetings on Saturday.
Seen as an attempt by the Chinese officials to gradually open up to the national and international media, Zhao entertained the question on Tibet, which in the recent months dominated the headlines all over the world with the periodic suicides of Buddhist monks demanding the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
So far 22 monks and nuns have attempted self immolations. Zhao denied that the situation had turned serious in Tibet due to the oppressive religious policy followed by the local officials to maintain social order in the Himalayan region.
Declining to answer directly to a question whether China would ask to the Dalai Lama to make an appeal to stop the suicides, as he was on record that he would not encourage the self immolations, Zhao said the Tibetan spiritual leader actually applauded the suicide attempts.
"According to what I have heard, he publicly applauded the courage of these people who set fire to themselves," he said.
Tibet is expected to figure in the deliberation of China's top legislatures, the National Peoples Congress, and CPPCC. Reports from Tibet said besides strengthening government controls on monasteries, Chinese officials also tightened monitoring of internet and mobile services in Tibet and a number of Tibetan prefectures.
The Government has also said it would put down any separatist activities.